CHICAGO — The Pacers came out of Game 1 red hot, despite the late meltdown. They were hungry for a win and the chance to send the series back to Indiana tied.
They played the Bulls tough again, showing that not only is this series not yet over, none of the Bulls intimidating factors faze them. It came down to the wire again, and this time the Pacers wanted it to come out in their favor.
The Bulls started out with a little fire, but it quickly fizzled in the first quarter. Derrick Rose quickly picked up two Personal Fouls and had to take a seat for the remainder of the first and the start of the second.
Carlos Boozer was placed in the leader role but he was horrid from the Free Throw line at first. He at one point missed three of five from the line. He settled down and led the Bulls I scoring heading into the with 13.
When Rose left the court, Chicago owned a 4 point lead. As soon as he left the court, Indiana took control and started to pull away leading by six in no time. With about 7:12 to go in the second, Indiana took an eight point lead which deflated the crowd at the United Center.
The big stat in the first quarter and really the first half was the Bulls constant turnovers. The Bulls had 9 first half turnovers, many of which the Pacers took advantage of and many of which came in the first quarter.
Another bug stat was how the benches performed. The Pacers scored 18 points off the bench while the Bulls Bench Mob scrapped up a mere 9. The bench not producing killed the Bulls in the first half.
But as soon as Rose came back onto the court, not only did the crowd come alive again, so did the Bulls. It is just more proof of how much an MVP Rose is. Every trip to the Free Throw line for Rose was accompanied by a deafening “MVP! MVP!” chant from the packed crowd.
The two big men of the first quarter were the ones that were opposed to have the largest impact: Derrick Rose and Danny Granger.
The way the Bulls played while Rose was sitting is troubling. The Pacers put on a chokehold and went into halftime with a 47-44 lead, but Chicago was hot on their tail and starting to get hot.
The Pacers owned a three point lead put of the half and they had pretry much taken the crowd at the Unted Center out of the game. The Pacers had a prime opportunity to take advantage and they failed to do so.
Chicago sparked a 16-3 run to pull back into the lead with about 8:12 in the third. With that came a pulse from the crowd.
Derrick Rose hit his first three pointer in 12 attempts and the crowd began to buzz and hum.
When Keith Bogans (of all people) hit a three point shot to make it a 55-50 Bulls lead, the crowd erupted and reinsterted themselves into the game as a factor.
Once this happened the Pacers started to fade. Kurt Thomas came into the game and gave the Bulls a boost, scoring a bucket after three straight attempts. But T.J. Ford hit a half court shot to tie the game at 67 which re-energized the Pacers and threatened to deflate the United a center crowd.
The sheer intensity of the second half was electric. The Bulls held the lead but Indiana hung in there far more than anyone could have expected. It was the second straight game the Pacers played the Bulls close all the way to the end. Entering the fourth quarter tied after Ford’s amazing shot was the perfect mood setter. It was anyone’s game at that point.
The Pacers used a 13-4 run overlapping the third and fourth quarters to get back into the game and even tie the lead using a combo of dynamic offense and a string of Bulls fouls to their advantage.
But the ultimate factor was the MVP, Derrick Rose. When the game came down to it, Rose did was he always does, explode from everywhere on the court. His swagger he gives the Bulls is unmatchable and the Pacers were no exception. Rose went over 30 points again on Monday and it was Kyle Korver hitting a critical three late in the game and a bad offensive foul call by the refs that helped seal the deal for the Bulls.
Although the Bulls were able to eek out a 2-0 series lead, the fact they had to comeback in Game 1 and were fighting for their lives in Game 2 isn’t settling. Still a win is a win.
And in the playoffs as long as you get them, you’re the better team.